The holidays are, in my opinion, the best time of year. You get to see your family, even those from far away. The food is amazing. I have a cousin who bakes the most amazing cookies, and dozens of kinds. She uses my grandmother’s recipes as well as her own, and it’s amazing. And everyone else makes their own specialty, so it’s all the family favorites at the table. I also work in retail, and love that the store is crazy-busy, and the customers are stressed but perfectly happy to stand in long lines.
But this season is dangerous for your pets. Many foods that we enjoy can kill dogs. Guests inadvertently leave the door open, and dogs escape. Hot kitchens lead to spills, and winter weather approaches. Use these tips to keep your dog safe this holiday season.
Dogs can be poisoned a number of ways during the holidays.
The ASPCA has an Animal Poison Control hotline. They do charge a fee for each consultation, but in an emergency can save your pet.
During the holidays, we use chocolate more than any other time of year. Chocolate candy, chocolate cookies, cakes, puddings, desserts, and hot chocolate all poison dogs every year. If you catch your dog at it, you can induce him to vomit using hydrogen peroxide. PetMD outlines the process. Note: Take your dog outside or put him in the bathtub before attempting this for easier cleanup.
Contact your veterinarian as soon as your dog has vomited, or have someone else do so while you’re collecting the supplies. Your dog may still need help, especially if your dog is small, ate a lot, or was already ill.
P.S. Not all toxins are safe to vomit up. Don’t use the vomiting trick for chemicals unless your vet advises you to do so.
Did you know poinsettias are actually toxic? Yep, they can kill a cat or dog, and are also dangerous for people.
Keep poinsettias on tables or shelves, and buy artificial plants if your dog is known to destroy houseplants.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, and many dogs are affected during the holidays. While not an acutal poisoning, holiday foods can cause a dangerous disease in dogs. This disease can become life-threatening, but at the least will make your dog very uncomfortable and leads to vomiting and diarrhea.
Eating improper food, like fatty or sweet people food, may cause pancreatitis. While dogs can eat turkey meat without much harm, don’t let them lick up the drippings or eat the skin. Don’t feed them desserts or cookies, and don’t let them “help with the dishes.”
Burns & Injuries
Dogs can get hurt other ways as well, and while many of these injuries are minor, they’re easily preventable. When you’re cooking or have guests, crate your dog or shut him in a bedroom.
Because families cook more during the holidays, and because they often do so with lots of people in the house, burns are common during the holidays. You’re boiling potatoes and your dog ends up underfoot, and you’ve dumped hot water all over him.
You can teach your dog the “out” command. I teach my pets that “out” means go stand on a different surface. Because my kitchen and bathroom are laminate, and the rest of the house is carpet, they learn that if I say “out” they are safe on carpet. I also use “move!” to get them to get out of the way quickly.
I teach these commands with the vacuum. If I give the command, the vacuum comes after their toes. They learn very quickly to respond very quickly to the command.
Broken toes happen too! Even if you don’t dump the hot food on the dog, you might step on his toes while trying to not spill dinner.
Broken toes are very painful, since dogs’ feet are different than ours. Use the “out” and “move” commands any time your dog is in your way, and he’ll quickly learn that he’s responsible for avoiding you, instead of expecting you to step around him.
Cold Weather Injuries
For many of us, the holiday season means freezing weather, snow, ice, sleet, and wind chill. Dogs need protection in a number of ways.
If you keep your dog outdoors, now is the time to prepare their space for winter. They should have a warm house, with thick bedding. Clean out the bedding and add fresh, and make sure the house is thoroughly insulated.
Make sure their kennel is sheltered from wind. They should be able to avoid drafts easily. Even if they have a small run inside the garage or an outbuilding, it needs a small shelter if the building isn’t heated.
Dogs develop frostbite, just like humans. Small dogs, and dogs that are lightweight for their size (like whippets) often have more difficulty regulating their temperature. Use sweaters or coats to keep these breeds warm.
Some breeds have coats that protect them from hot and cold weather. Labradors and Huskies, for example, grow a coat suitable to the weather. Yet they can still get frostbite on toes, ear tips, and testicles. (Yep, I have a friend who had a dog get frostbite on his testicles from sitting on frozen concrete.)
Check your dog daily, especially if he spends a lot of time outside.
Choking is especially heart wrenching, because there’s usually very little time to react before the dog is injured beyond repair. This time of year, your home is full of things that can choke your dog (or toddler!)
Dogs should never be fed cooked meat with bones in it. Cooked bones are weaker than raw bones. Dogs ancestors had jaws strong enough to crush raw bones, and easily crush cooked bones. But cooked bones splinter into sharp spikes.
Cooked bones can catch in the dog’s throat and cause choking. Even if they pass into the stomach, they can tear up the dog’s stomach and intestines on the way out, and cause a blockage.
Toys & Decorations
During the holidays, humans add a ton of things in the home. Destructive dogs go after these new items, and can choke on them or develop a blockage. Consider protecting these items form your destructive dog:
- Barbie brushes, shoes, and small bits
- Toddler toys with squeakies, like rubber duckies.
- Christmas ornaments
- Christmas lights
- Icicles – the very thin shiny plastic pieces (don’t use these at all if you have cats)
- Toys with small pieces
- Anything with batteries
Other Things That Can Kill Your Dog
Can you think of other things that might hurt your dog during the holiday season? Has your dog done something that surprised you during the holiday season?